The ballad of the little white van

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The Independent Online
As regular readers will know, I am amassing a collection of modern folk ballads all about life on the motorways of Britain.

Here's a rather nice ballad told me by a driver I met recently in the non-smoking area of the Granary Kitchen at the Newport Pagnell Service Area.

As I go down the motorway

To Weston-super-Mare

Or Cardiff, or to Swansea,

Or Bath, or anywhere,

I sometimes get the feeling

As down the road I roar

That everything that 's happening

Has happened to me before.

It doesn't really matter

If it's M4 or M2

- I always get this feeling

Of definite deja vu,

A strange, disturbing feeling,

Impossible to explain,

That things which once have


Are happening again.

It's not the motorway scenery

Which always seems the same,

It's not the signs or bridge design

Or the countryside I blame

- Oh no! I point the finger

At a rat-faced little man

Who sits upright at the steering


Of an off-white little van.

I first overtook that vehicle

Nearly an hour ago

And then he overtook me

Though I wasn't going slow

And then I overtook him

And then he came past me

And now we pass each other

Fairly regularly.

Every time I waken

From my motorway reverie

If I'm not overtaking him

He's overtaking me.

I seem to go no faster

Or slower, come to that,

So how on earth does he pass me,

The dirty little rat?

Every time I pass him

I leave him well behind,

And then five minutes later

What do you think I find?

A scruffy little vehicle

With muddy marks and dents

Overtaking my limo!

It simply doesn't make sense ...

I never see him look at me

And he never catches my eye,

But we know each other well by


As we pass each other by.

I've seen that man in his little van

On the road to Avonmouth

And I've also seen him going past

On the M2, heading south.

I've seen him coming on at Leeds

And off on the Reading road,

And I fancy once I saw him,

Near Plymouth, being towed,

I've seen him in the Midlands

Going towards Liverpool

And I've passed him up in


Heading for Ultima Thule.

Oh, life is like a roulette wheel.

And what goes round, comes


And the thing that comes most


Is a van with a bit of sack

Tying together the handles

On the door which no longer


And I know I've seen that van


Elsewhere, in other circs.

And it's starting to drive me


Seeing that little white van

Creeping up in my mirror

Going as fast as he can,

And my only consolation

In my haunted misery

Is that if I'm sick of him,

He must hate the sight of me!